By guest contributor Tom Falco
Byron’s note: Tom contacted the Alliance to see if we accepted guest contributions, and the answer is yes we do! As an old TV news director, I liked Tom’s forthright comments in his email as he described getting the assignment to interview Kevin: “To be honest, I didn’t know who Kevin was until after I was given the assignment! I of course knew the Ninja Turtles, I just didn’t know who the creator was. But he was a very nice guy, very humble and patient and easy to speak with. I tried to hide my ignorance with the questions I asked.” And now let’s enjoy Tom’s interview!
New Orleans hosted Wizard World Comic Con November 30 through December 2, 2012. Thousands of fans descended on the Crescent City to partake in their favorite activities involving comics, TV and movies. Special events included the reunion of the Star Trek: Next Generation crew. It’s been 25 years since they hit the airwaves, and seven of the series’ characters were on hand to meet fans. Comic book legend Stan Lee, drew long lines for autographs, as did Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Eliza Dushku, Reservoir Dogs headliner Michael Madsen and WWE® Superstar CM Punk®. They were joined by an All-Star collection of well-known artists and a variety of activities, exhibitors and special attractions.
Kevin Sorbo, from TV’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys; Jason David Frank who played Tommy Oliver in the long-running TV show Power Rangers; and Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Peter Laird is co-creator), were also present. I had the opportunity to ask Kevin a few questions, including about the upcoming movie, which is quite controversial in fans’ eyes due to some interesting changes with the beloved characters.
Tom Falco: You have been doing these conventions since the mid-1980s, how have things changed?
Kevin Eastman: Back in the earliest days — using San Diego Comic Con as a reference point, as I have been going there since 1985 — those shows seemed to have a more “intimate” relationship between the artists and the fans, and the dealer rooms seemed to have a more “Flea Market” feel to the booths, places you could go and spend hours digging around for odd bits and pieces for your collection. Today, they seem more pop-culture, trans-media promotional events; pushing the latest comics and film/TV projects, not that that is a bad thing — at the end of the day most fans there are happy to go and be part of these exhibits. It’s a place full of like-minded friends and fans. They can meet some of the creators of their current or childhood characters.
Tom: How and why did you decide on the Renaissance names for the Ninja Turtles (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael)?
Kevin: When you are working in the silly “scope” of an idea like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles naming your characters traditional Asian inspired names didn’t seem silly enough. Traditional American names; also not silly enough. So as both Peter Laird and I were big art history fans, it instantly mutually agreed when one of us blurted out, “How about Renaissance artists for the names?” We both completely agreed. Funny side note, Donatello was almost named “Bernini!” I was a big, big fan of his work, but Pete suggested another name that ended with an “O” like “Donatello” and we both agreed. Besides, he was a pretty awesome sculptor as well…
Tom: Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is you?
Kevin: Raphael. Not only was he one of my favorite artists from that time period, as a Mutant Ninja Turtle, he’s passionate, hot-headed, bull-headed, but with a good heart somewhere in the middle, and I can relate. He’s my favorite to write as well — you can take an unpredictable character to a lot of cool places in a story.
Tom: The new Ninja Turtles movie is now in pre-production, with a release date of 2014. The premise is that the Turtles have an extraterrestrial origin. Fanboys are not pleased with this. You have stated that it will work out great. Why?
Kevin: I like to answer this by basically telling the fans first and foremost not to worry, this will be a great TMNT film. Much like many 30-year-old concepts, the TMNTs have been re-invented a number of times, some were stronger than others, but if you look at what Viacom/Nickelodeon has done/allowed to happen with the new TMNT animated TV series, and the new IDW comic series, each has a slightly new and refreshed take on the “core concept.” The new film with be the same, a film “well placed” in the TMNT lore the fans will enjoy. If we learned nothing else from one of my favorite comic book-based films, The Avengers, it’s that there’s a lot to be said about never forgetting that core concept and core fan-base.
Tom: What’s your feeling about web comics today? If you started the Ninja Turtles today, you probably would not have had to publish the first comic book and could have introduced them online via daily or weekly installments.
Kevin: I agree 100 percent, and often push up-and-coming storytellers to pushing their work online in the usual places, as well as through more cool artistic centric places like Deviant Art, and definitely build your worlds there, tell your stories there, meet other like-minded creative folks there, share ideas, and grow together; on a global level! [The Internet] is a seriously cool way to network the hell out of a new idea, not the least of which is seeing what else is out there for inspirations. Online publishing is the next true new wave of independent publishing/self-expression.
Tom: What about social media and apps? Is there a Ninja Turtle app out there, is one on the way? Do Donatello or Raphael tweet?
Kevin: Hah! Hah! I’m sure there is — I’ll have to ask my friends at Nickelodeon, I’m not as up to speed as I should be with that kind of stuff personally, and I avoid it when I can I guess, as I feel like I’d rather be playing with the kids or drawing than tweeting and doing the social network thing… but that is the world today, and a lot of people do it, and like it! OMG and LOL, right?
Tom: Thanks Kevin, it was great seeing you at the Comic Con!
Tom Falco, creator of the webcomic www.Tomversation.com has been doing cartoons and illustrations for many years. His comics have appeared in newspapers, magazines, books and online. Tom is also a journalist whose work appears in various publications including the Miami Herald, Huffington Post, Examiner and now the Webcomic Alliance.